There was a little girl that was called Little Golden-hood. She was pretty and nice as a star in its season. Her real name was Blanchette, but since she used to have on a wonderful little cloak with a hood that was gold-and-fire-coloured, she was called Little Golden-hood. Her Grandmother had given it to her. She was so old that she did not know her age.
One day the mother said to the child: "Let us see, my little Golden-hood, if you know now how to find your way to Grandmother's house by yourself. You shall take this good piece of cake to her for a Sunday treat tomorrow. Remember to ask her how she is, and come back at once, without stopping to chatter on the way with people you don't know. Do you quite understand?"
"I quite understand," replied Blanchette merrily. And off she went with the cake, pleased with her errand.
But Grandmother lived in another village, and there was a wood to cross before getting there. At a turn of the road under the trees, suddenly she heard an animal among the bushes.
"Who goes there?"
He had been prying on her since she left home that day, seeking a safe place to attack and eat her. But then some wood-cutters appeared near-by. So instead of falling on Blanchette he came frisking up to her like a good dog.
"It is you, nice Little Golden-hood," said he. So the little girl stopped to talk with the wolf, even though she did not know him in the least.
"You know me, then!" said she; "what is your name?"
"My name is friend Wolf. And where are you going, pretty one, with your little basket on your arm?"
"I am going to my Grandmother, to take her a good piece of cake for her Sunday treat tomorrow."
"And where does she live, your Grandmother?"
"She lives at the other side of the wood, in the first house in the village, near the windmill, you know."
"Ah! yes! I know now," said the Wolf. "Well, that's just where I'm going; I shall get there before you, no doubt, with your little bits of legs, and I'll tell her you're coming to see her; then she'll wait for you."
The Wolf cut across the wood, and in five minutes arrived at the Grandmother's house.
He knocked at the door: toc, toc.
He knocked louder.
Then he stood up on end, put his two forepaws on the latch and the door opened. There was not a soul in the house, for the old woman had risen early to sell herbs in the town, and she had gone off in such haste that she had left her bed unmade, with her great nightcap on the pillow.
"Good!" said the wolf to himself, "I know what I'll do."
He shut the door, pulled on the Grandmother's nightcap down to his eyes, then he laid down in his full length in the bed after drawing the curtains.
In the meantime, Blanchette went quietly on her way, as little girls do, amusing herself here and there by picking Easter daisies, watching the little birds making their nests, and running after the butterflies which fluttered in the sunshine.
At last she arrived at the door. Knock, knock.
"Who is there?" said the wolf, softening his rough voice as best he could.
"It's me, Granny, your little Golden-hood. I'm bringing you a big piece of cake for your Sunday treat tomorrow."
"Press your finger on the latch, then push and the door opens."
"Why, you've got a cold, Granny," said she, coming in.
"Ahem! A little, a little . . ." replied the wolf, pretending to cough. "Shut the door well, my little lamb. Put your basket on the table, and then take off your frock and come and lie down by me and rest a little."
The good child undressed, but kept her little hood on her head. When she saw what a figure her Granny cut in bed, she was much surprised.
"Oh!" cried she, "how like you are to friend Wolf, Grandmother!"
"That's because of my night-cap, child," replies the wolf.
"Oh! What hairy arms you have got, Grandmother!"
"All the better to hug you, my child."
"Oh! What a big tongue you have got, Grandmother!"
"All the better for answering, child."
"Oh! What a mouthful of great white teeth you have, Grandmother!"
"That's for crunching little children with! "And the wolf opened his jaws wide to swallow Blanchette.
But she put down her head crying, "Mamma! Mamma!" and the wolf only caught her little hood.
The wolf drew back, crying and shaking his jaw as if he had swallowed red-hot coals. The little fire-coloured hood that had burnt his tongue right down his throat. The little hood, you see, was one of those magic caps that they used to have in former times, in stories.
So there was the wolf with his throat burnt, jumping off the bed and trying to find the door, howling and howling as if all the dogs in the country were at his heels.
Just at this moment the Grandmother arrived. She was returning from town with her long sack empty on her shoulder.
"Ah, brigand!" she cried, "wait a bit!" Quickly she opened her sack wide across the door, and the maddened wolf sprang in head downwards. For once it was he that had been caught.
The brave old dame shut her sack, and next she ran and emptied it in the well. The vagabond wolf, still howling, tumbled in and was drowned.
"Ah, scoundrel! You thought you would crunch my little grandchild! Well, tomorrow we will make her a muff of your skin, and you yourself shall be crunched, for we will give your carcass to the dogs."
Then Grandmother hastened to dress Blanchette, who was still trembling with fear in the bed.
"Well," she said to her, "without my little hood where would you be now, darling?" To restore heart to the child, she made her eat a good piece of her cake and drink a good draught of wine. After that she took her by the hand and led her back to her home.
And then, who scolded her when she knew all that had happened? It was the mother. But Blanchette said she would never more stop to listen to a wolf, so her mother forgave her.
Blanchette, the Little Golden-hood, kept her word. And in fine weather she may still be seen in the fields with her pretty little hood, the colour of the sun.
But to see her you must rise early.
[Marelles. Contes of Ch. Marelles]
The sea-breeze blew from the shore of the Black Water, and the stars were getting brighter to look at. The young maidens had gone homewards to the little farms, carrying on their fingers the metal rings their friends had bought them at the fair. The youths went across the common, singing their songs. At last their sonorous voices could no more be heard; the light dresses of the damsels were no longer to be seen; it was night.
Nevertheless, here was Lao, with a merry company, at the entrance of the lonely heath, – Lao, the celebrated piper, had come expressly from the mountains to lead the dance at the fair of Armor. His face looked like a March moon, his black locks floated as they would on the wind, and he held under his arm the pipe whose sounds had even set in motion a number of old women in their sabots. These women came along with him. When they came to a crossroad where there rises a granite cross all overgrown with moss, the women stopped, and said,
"Let us take the pathway leading towards the sea."
Master Lao pointed out the belfry-tower of Plougean over the hill, and said, "That is the point we are making for; why not go across the heath?"
The women answered, "Because a city of Korigans rises in the middle of that heath, and one must be pure from sin to pass it without danger."
"Korigans?" said Lao. One of the women reminded him of it, "Korigans, a race of black dwarfs living in the commons near meadows and wheat-fields." But Lao laughed aloud. "By heaven!" said he, "I have travelled by night-time all these roads, yet I have never seen your little black men counting their money by moonlight, as they tell us at the chimney-corner. Show me the road leading to the Korigan city, and I will go and sing to them the days of the week."
But the women all exclaimed, "Don't Lao. Some things in this world it is better to be ignorant of, and other things we ought to fear. Leave the Korigans alone to dance about their granite dwellings. They have the whistling of the wind across the heath to dance to, and the singing of the night-bird."
"Well, then," said the mountaineer, "I would like them to listen to my music. I will go across the common playing some of my best Cornouaille airs."
So saying, he put his pipe to his lips, and striking up a cheerful strain, he set off boldly on the little footway that stretched like a white line across the gloomy heath.
The women hurried terrified down the hill.
But Lao walked straight on and played on his pipes. As he advanced, his heart grew bolder, his breath more powerful, and the music louder. He had already crossed just half the common when he saw the Menhir [a large upright standing stone] rising like a phantom in the night, and further on he saw the dwellings of the Korigans.
Then he seemed to hear an ever-rising murmur. At first it was like the trickling of a rill, then like the rushing of a river, and then the roaring of the sea; and different sounds were mingled in this roar - sometimes like stifled laughs, then furious hissing, the mutterings of low voices, and the rush of steps on the withered grass.
Lao began to breathe less freely, and his eyes glanced right and left over the common. It was as if the tufts of heath were moving, all seemed alive and whirling in the gloom. All took the form of hideous dwarfs, and voices were clearly heard. Suddenly the moon rose, and Lao cried aloud.
To left, to right, behind, before, everywhere, as far as the eye could reach, the common was alive with running Korigans. Bewildered, Lao drew back to the Menhir and leant against it, but the Korigans saw him and came round with cries like those of grasshoppers.
"It is the piper of Cornouaille who has come here to play for the Korigans."
The little men surrounded him and shrieked, "You belong to us, Lao. Pipe then, piper, and lead the dance of the Korigans."
Lao resisted in vain. Some magic power mastered him, he felt the pipe approach his lips, and he played and danced in spite of himself. The Korigans surrounded him with circling bands, and every time he would have paused they cried in chorus,
"Pipe, piper, pipe, and lead the dance of the Korigans."
Lao went on thus the whole night, but when the stars grew paler in the sky, the music of his pipes waxed fainter, his feet had greater difficulty in moving from the ground. At last the dawn of day spread palely in the east, the cocks were heard crowing in the distant farms, and the Korigans disappeared. Then the mountain piper sunk down breathless at the foot of the Menhir. The mouth-piece of his pipes fell from his shrivelled lips, his arms dropped on his knees, and his head on his breast to rise no more. Voices murmured in the air,
"Sleep, piper! You have led the dance of the Korigans, so you shall never lead the dance for anyone any more."
[A Breton tale]